Partners to see new opportunities from new Hitachi Vantara solutions and portal

Hitachi Vantara also clarified how they plan to manage the integration in January with Hitachi Consulting to optimize the new internal assets’ collaboration with partners, and limit any channel conflict.

Kimberly King, Hitachi Vantara’s VP of Global Partner Strategy and Programs

LAS VEGAS – This year’s NEXT event here saw a trio of major product announcements by Hitachi Vantara, a welcome contrast from last year when the new product announcements were more subdued. While a comparatively small group of partners who had volunteered for early access was well aware of them, most learned of the new offerings for the first time on Tuesday, and the response was enthusiastic. Kimberly King, Hitachi Vantara’s Vice President of Global Partner Strategy and Programs, discussed the partner event with ChannelBuzz. King also clarified how Hitachi Consulting will operate within the expanded Hitachi Vantara once that integration goes live at the start of 2020, and gave an overview of the new program elements that are in the process of being implemented.

“At our Partner Day yesterday, we gave our partners a complete preview of what was announced today,” King said. “Typically, we don’t do that. We go through changes to the program and incents, and stick to program messaging.”

King said the company also clarified the meaning for partners of the forthcoming integration of the Hitachi Consulting company into Ventara, which will be effective in January 2020. The Hitachi Consulting business, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in North America and EMEA, has the potential to cause significant channel conflict if not properly handled, King said that they will address channel conflict concerns with full-on disclosure.

“We will disclose how and where we are working with both the Consulting personnel and with the channel,” she stated. “There will be some instances where we compete –  but every company has that. We will make sure that everyone understands our goals so that we are working collaboratively.”

King indicated that they were concerned that their GSI partners would have an issue with the Consulting addition, but that they were pleasantly surprised this turned out not to be the case.

“They see this as great,” she said. “Hitachi Consulting has a digital practice, but their primary practice was consulting about SAP and Oracle and Microsoft. They really focused on industry solutions.”

King said that their messaging to partners is that the additional consulting resources improve Vantara’s overall presence and capabilities.

“It makes us stronger in the market,” she said. “The Consulting business’s services and offerings are verticalized, and we see their expertise as complementary to our other partners. That vertical focus can be useful for regional and global systems integrators in particular.”

Unsurprisingly, given the importance of the new solutions announced to the company’s vision and ability to deliver on it, these announcements created much excitement among partners. The new VSP 5000 storage array was the highlight. Historically, there has been some correlation between how high a solution is aimed in the market, and the degree to which it is sold direct by Hitachi Vantara. The VSP is now their top of the line product, built for very large customers and their needs. King said that they expect it will have very strong appeal to partners, however.

“It’s a huge partner play,” she said. “When we did the early adopter program with this, we picked partners from each geo – GSIs, regional system integrators, and local partners. All of these adopted it. It’s a huge game-changer to differentiate partners, so they have been putting it in their labs.”

King described the reaction at the partner day Tuesday when this was previewed as highly enthusiastic.

“Partners love this product,” she said. “When we announced it, partners who hadn’t raised their hands earlier to be early adopters on this were lining up to get it in their lab. The training is online and ready to go. We turned that switch on this [Wednesday] morning.”

The training is mainly sales positioning, but there are some technical skills involved as well, although King said that these are relatively minor.

“Partners who have worked with other VSPs will know how to use it,” she said. “It has the same interfaces and management tools.”

The third generation of the Lumada platform, which was originally a pure IOT play but is now being broadened out somewhat with this release, will have two separate channel plays, for two different types of partners.

“We are expecting to see strong interest from our Technology Alliance Partners,” she said. “A lot of cloud service providers are also very interested.”

Historically, Lumada has had a relatively small channel presence compared to the storage portfolio, and King indicated that this will continue with Lumada 3.0.

“We are being very selective,” she said. “All the partners are interested in the VSP 5000, but we are phasing in Lumada with the channel.”

King indicated that today, between 20 and 30% of the Hitachi Vantara partner base have embraced Lumada, Pentaho and their analytics.

“Others are getting into it,” she said. “A lot of net-new partners in the last year have also come on board around Pentaho and Lumada. We have added almost 300 partners globally in the last 18 months around them.”

The other new product announcement revolved around the expanded and enhanced capabilities for Hitachi Vantara cloud services, the cloud service portfolio that has its origins in the company’s acquisition of REAN Cloud in 2018. These services have been fully integrated within the portfolio, and several new ones were announced at NEXT.

“Partners love REAN, and we have had huge traction across the board with it,” King said. “We created a phased implementation for partners. GSIs adopted it first and embedded it into their larger practices. With regional integrators, we have picked several in each geo and have trained those, and below that there is a lot of specialized partners that we are working with. Partners like it because it helps with multi-cloud offerings both in terms of how they can both move and modernize applications. It has eliminated some work that used to be manual in the past.”

While the programmatic announcements took second stage at Partner Day this year, there were still some.

“We are rolling out a new digital platform for partners through a new portal – and will be rolling out a marketplace when it is ready,” King said. “The new platform will also give access to install base and refreshes, and lead generation. We have a few partners on it now, with a general rollout coming in April. This new portal is a huge difference from the one today.

The enhancements will be generally familiar to partners familiar with the next-generation portals that the designers of such tools have been introducing to the market over the last couple of years.

“The old portal is a custom platform that was built four or five years ago,” King said. “It doesn’t do content management, and doesn’t allow for localization. The new ‘community’, as we call, it differentiates on who the partner is as a user – what type of partner they are and who they are in the company. That will customize the content to the user. Now, everyone sees the same thing.”

In addition, King indicated things will be in the new portal which have not been there in the past.

“We have a ton of internal tools we have never exposed to partners, such as our install and configuration tools, our Salesforce system and our marketing hub,” she said. “We went out to the partner community a year ago and got strong feedback about this.”

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